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Review: Hot Pursuit 

This article was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

If you look really closely while watching Sofia Vergara act, you can sometimes catch little one frame jokes the animators have snuck in. You surely wouldn't be looking for subtlety if you sit down for Hot Pursuit, but perhaps you wouldn't be expecting a full-blown cartoon? In this new buddy comedy from director Anne Fletcher (Step Up, The Guilt TripThe Proposal) everything and everyone is broad, broader, broadest. And not just Vergara as America's favorite Colombian broad. Think The Proposal's strange dancing campfire scene between Sandra Bullock and Betty White. No, no. Not broad enough. Broader. Broadest! 

Sofia Vergara plays tempestuous Sofia Vergara while Reese Witherspoon plays Officer Cooper, a well meaning super uptight cop. It's the classic odd couple dynamic showbiz has relied on since the camera was invented. These types are comedies are never reinventing the wheel, nor should they be expected too, so the test is always in how funny they are and how good the star chemistry is. Hot Pursuit will immediately be compared to The Heat not just because it stars two women (gasp!) but because of this uptight/wild dynamic and a similar crime situation with dirty cops and a drug lord who keeps escaping the law.

1. Will this odd couple who immediately hate each other learn to work together before the end credits roll?  

2. Will Vergara & Witherspoon survive the McCarthy & Bullock comparisons?

The answers are after the jump...

The short answers...

1. Duh, of course.

2. RIP Vergara & Witherspoon as Comedy Duo.

The long answers...

The plot is a relatively simple through line on which to hang comic setpieces. Cooper is tasked with delivering her loud co-star quietly (good luck with that) and safely to the witness stand at a drug lord's criminal trial. Things go haywire immediately and our girls on the run. Or rather, on the walk. Vergara won't give up her jewel encrusted stilettos or a whole suitcase full of similar ones-- because she's a vain diva, get it? -- even if it means an early grave. So it's up to Reese to handcuff and basically drag her along which is not unlike how the movie-carrying load seems to divvy up. The movie makes a running joke of how short Reese is, which only exacerbates the problem: that's an awfully diminutive frame that you're expecting to carry everything.

Sofia's funniest very broadly performed moment

Not that Reese hasn't previously been a miraculous delight in cartoonish mode. To claim otherwise would enrage legions of Elle Woods Fan Club members.

I object!"

Almost no other actress does live action cartoon as joyfully and few actors have a charisma as resiliently large (see Wild - never boring despite the fact that it's basically a 2 hour hike with only Reese to keep you company). But even Witherspoon has her limits and she seems at a loss here, only intermittently funny and affecting the most oddly overstated southern accent from a southern superstar you've heard since Steel Magnolias.

Is this too mean?

It's not an outright disaster. Even Sofia Vergara has a few moments if you account for the scenes where she stops going for lazy laughs and attempts to imbue her diva with a little shade (no, not that kind). Rob Kazinsky shows up late for some eye candy purposes ("You're welcome" - casting director).  

Hot Pursuit is inoccuous enough that it's easy to picture people watching it absentmindedly on TV when it pops up from time to time in the next few years and thinking it's funnier than it is, not having to sit through all of it. There are definitely a few good laughs (Reese high on cocaine -- don't ask -- turns out to be pretty damn funny) but mostly there are flop-sweat style hijinx, like a ridiculously complicated slapstick joke about Reese & Sofia on each other's laps while handcuffed, driving, and shooting guns.

And finally, the entertainment value of watching whole scenes go horribly awry and wondering whatever possessed anyone involved should not be underestimated! Of particular note is a scene in which the stars pretend to be lovers, to distract a hillbilly pointing a gun at them. Their mock lesbianism, complete with fake makeout, is not unlike watching two awkward robots of vastly different sizes and protocols attempt to feign humanity only no one has uploaded anything about human sexuality into their programming. After lots of awkward non-human like touching and completely weird non-sexy body language, Sofia begins yanking on Reese's ponytail rather violently which suddenly turns the hilbilly on. Who is this scene supposed to appeal to: robots? homophobes? sadomasochists? pony-tail fetishists? I don't think this is what they meant when they asked for a "four-quadrant movie".

Wild, Or How Reese Witherspoon Got Her Groove Back

Also Opening and Previously Reviewed at Festivals:
The D Train Jack Black spirals out of control with sex & drugs while obsessing over James Marsden
Saint Laurent Gaspard Ulliel spirals out of control with sex & drugs while obsessing over fashion

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Reader Comments (4)

Reese is so organized that I am surprised that this is so bad. You can't fake comedy so they must have known during shooting that it was not working. And a woman director tanking unfortunately becomes bad for other women who are trying to excel in that field. I hope Reese has better luck on HBO, but I was surprised to learn her audience is now the over 50 set.

May 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSarah T

It's a blip for Reese,everyone has awful comedies they want to forget Kidman,Bullock,Theron,Roberts,Moore and Hawn.

Vergara movie star is not happening yet.

Did no one see TGT the most awful misuse of Streisand.

May 11, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermark

Yes, but Reese has had THREE big comic misfires in recent years: How Do You Know, This Means War, and now Hot Pursuit. Let's face it, with the exception of Legally Blond (the first one, not the sequel!), Election, and *maybe* Sweet Home Alabama, her "comedies" tend to suck.

May 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Reese needs to know her "Queen of Box Office" days are long gone. She needs to focus on films like Wild.

May 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAV

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